Friday, December 31, 2010

100 Word Review: Sworn to Silence

If you are a fan of crime/thriller novels, then you may have heard of Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo.  I saw it on multiple "to-be-read" lists on and it has good reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.  It was also a NYT bestseller, so I downloaded it to my Kindle and began reading it on Christmas Eve.  Maybe this thriller was a poor choice for the holiday.  Maybe I should have chosen an inspirational book or a historical romance for this time of year.  I wasn't aware of what I was getting into, that's for sure.  If you are a big fan of Criminal Minds, CSI, and other crime shows, you will probably enjoy this book.  I enjoy those shows, but I'm uncomfortable with how explicit some of the material can be.  I often get completely "creeped out" by them (especially Criminal Minds).  This book is very much like that, but with the freedom to be completely graphic where network television (and even cable) cannot go.  I had a little trouble sleeping a couple of nights and I'm glad I am finished with this work of crime fiction (please, oh please, let it be completely fiction). 

Here's my 100 word review of Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo.

An evil, sadistic, serial killer in a small Ohio town.
An Amish girl fights back ending the killing spree.
No one must know...A family sworn to silence.
Sixteen years later, the killer returns.
But, how?  Who will stop him?

Graphic violence...way too much for me.
Horrific detail...really hard to read.
Excessive bad language...gratuitous.

The plot seemed very a Lifetime Channel movie.  I Googled to find out if a television movie had been made (not yet).
Too much of the crime story...not enough of the much more interesting Amish story.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

100 Word Review: The Graveyard Book

I don't read a lot of YA literature.  It's not that I don't like YA, but my to-be-read list is huge and very little of it is YA.  I know of a lot of avid readers and bloggers who read mostly YA, and after reading Neil Gaiman's Newbery Award winning The Graveyard Book, I can see why.  If this is a typical YA book, I'm switching genres. 
I decided to read this book because my almost eleven-year-old daughter, an extremey avid reader, asked if she could read it.  I had heard the book was a bit "controversial" (whatever that means these days), so I told her I would read it and decide if it was right for her.  Even though the beginning and end of the book are a bit scary, this is not a horror book.  It's really a retelling of a children's classic.  I think my bookworm daughter will thoroughly enjoy it, as I did.  I plan to read more Gaiman.  He's a very talented storyteller.  And, guess what?  No vampires! 

Here's my 100 word review of The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.

Three murders...not four.

A knife-wielding man named Jack.

An orphan without a name...a real Nobody.

Raised and protected by the residents of the graveyard.

Isolated, but never alone.  Safe among the dead.
The man named Jack, somewhere outside the graveyard gates, waits for Nobody.

An amazing cast of characters, dead and alive.


A mature, deep, emotional story with beautiful language that makes the reader learn to live from the lessons of the dead.

Rudyard Kipling would enjoy this modern and crafty retelling of his classic, The Jungle Book.



My son, the Ninja Magi...

My darling children participated in our church Nativity play last Sunday.  I knew Darling Daughter (almost 11) would do just fine.  She played the prophetess Anna who worshipped day and night at the temple.  She knew exactly where to stand (or kneel in this case), what to say, and what NOT to do. 

But, Darling Son (3 1/2) had me worried.  He had a pretty big role, a dual role in fact:  one of the Magi and Jesus ("Not Baby Jesus, Mommy.  Almost four-year-old Jesus." he proudly told me after the dress rehearsal.)  DS had done great in his school Christmas play the week before and enjoyed himself so much, maybe this would go really well.  Maybe...

I knew we were in trouble when DS awakened Sunday morning and stated that he wasn't going to be in the play at all.  His stubborn streak is immeasurable.  We all coaxed and begged, but he wouldn't budge.  DH told DS that he would be in the play or he would be in time-out all day (Oh, sure. That'll work! Just like a man).  DS didn't budge an inch.  He wasn't doing it.  Period.

We arrived at church and the children were all getting into their adorable costumes.  DS began to scream and cling to me as if the floor were covered in snakes.  I was ready to give up, make our apologies, and find a new congregation, when DD came up with the one trick that changed DS's stubborn mind.  "If you do it, Mommy will buy you a toy."  Bribery.  Why didn't I think of that?  Oh yeah, because it's Christmas, I have no bribery money, I didn't want to stoop to that level, I DON"T want to go shopping, AND DS wins!

It surely worked.  The tears immediately stopped.  A big smile appeared on his chapped lips.  An "I knew if I threw a big enough fit I'd get a toy" twinkle appeared in his eye.  Grrrrr....

DD got him dressed and I went off to join the other parents praying that their kid wouldn't be the one to ruin the whole production.

DS spent much of the time waiting to hit the stage picking his nose, adjusting his Magi hat, and climbing over the back of the chair. 

We're so proud...

DD did her part perfectly (in the middle). 
Of course, she's a pro by now. 

Well, Baby Jesus had been born and it was time for the Magi to visit.  DS didn't have the "gold" to bring to the newborn King.  He'd left it in the dressing room.  No problem.

It was time for his big line:  "Where is the King of the Jews?"  He delivered it almost perfectly in his sweet 3 1/2 year old voice with his mouth completely engulfing the microphone:  "Where is the King of the Juice?"
The audience smiled and laughed softly.

As the Magi sat around the throne of King Herod, it was time for another older child to speak.  He had several lines.  He was dressed as a soldier with a sword.  I believe he was one of King Herod's highly trained guards, but DS managed to unsheath the soldier's sword while he was delivering his lines.  Another magi and DS wrestled over the sword for at least a minute.  Neither would even consider letting go.  DS finally wrenched it away from the older, stronger, magi (as DH pointed out).  For the next several minutes, things turned "bloody".  DS "sawed" off the arm of the soldier, put several viscious "slashes" across his back, and finally "beheaded" the soldier just as he finished his last line.  DS had become Ninja Magi! 
The audience was rolling in laughter, as were DH and I.  There was nothing else to do.  It was hilarious!  DH didn't even take a picture because he was laughing too hard.

Once the magi and shepherds went to visit Baby Jesus in the manger, DS decided to "shoot" at the narrator across the stage during this dramatic scene where he was supposed to be worshipping the newborn King.  I guess Mary and Joseph could have hired DS as a bodyguard for Baby Jesus.  I mean, it was a dangerous time.  So, DS really had three roles in the play:  Ninja Magi, Baby Jesus's bodyguard, and "almost four-year-old" Jesus.  DH and I might become stage parents!
The other young children quickly followed DS's lead.  One was twirling his crown on his arm while spinning in a circle doing some pretty good tricks.  A shepherd boy was tripping others with his staff.  The star refused to climb the ladder above the manger.  And so on...
The older children were either cracking up or mortified (guess which one DD was...totally emabarrassed).

The play came to an end with DS playing "almost four-year-old" Jesus (He grew in wisdom and stature...).  He had the last line of the play, which I think was supposed to be "Joy to the world."  The director tried to hand him the microphone.  DS crossed his arms and refused to speak.  I wonder if "almost four-year-old" Jesus had this kind of attitude?  Somehow, I doubt it.
Oh well...we all knew how the story ended.  The audience gave the children a standing ovation. 
When DS came to us we hugged him and told him what a great job he had done (what were we supposed to say?).

Can you guess the first words out of his mouth?  That's right..."Mommy, I'm ready to go get my new toy now." 
And do you know that DD followed with, "Can I get something too since I got him to do the play?"  Seriously?

I think I'm about to become Ninja Mommy!                          
(DS with bribery toy.  DD got a book.  Grrrr!)

Merry Christmas from our loony family to yours!  If you need your Nativity yard display guarded by a Ninja Magi, just let me know.          



Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fall Into Reading 2010 Wrap-up

Another big thanks to Katrina @ Callapidder Days for hosting this annual challenge.  I can't wait to see everyone else's conquered lists.  Mine is longer than I expected (mainly because I don't want to read my grad school books--BORING!).  Here's my original list

I've reviewed, in exactly 100 words, each one of the books I finished on this blog as I finished them:  World Without End, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, On Folly Beach, Her Mother's Hope, The Confession, and Pearl in the Sand

Katrina asked the questions below of her Fall Challenge participants.  I'm happy to oblige.  Also, I'm looking forward to the spring challenge.  You should give it a go, too.   

1,  Did you finish reading all the books on your fall reading list? If not, why not?
I read 3 of the 4 on my original list.  I'm reading two that were not on my original list now.  I plan to read Sworn to Silence next, but I bumped it for a couple of others along the way.
2.  Did you stick to your original goals or did you change your list as you went along?
My goal was set low because of the business this time of year, but I was able to add a couple of books. 

3.  What was your favorite book that you read this fall? Least favorite? Why?
They were all very different and I liked them all, but I really enjoyed Pearl in the Sand above the others.    The story is just captivating and I couldn't put it down.  My least favorite is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  It took way too long to become interesting.  Maybe it was the translation. 

4.  Did you discover a new author or genre this fall? Did you love them? Not love them?
Tessa Afshar (Pearl in the Sand) is definitely someone I plan to read again.  She's a great storyteller.  I love historical fiction, but Biblical historical fiction is becoming one of my favorite genres.

5.  Did you learn something new because of Fall Into Reading 2010 – something about reading, about yourself, or about a topic you read about? 
I learned more about the imbalance and inconsistencies of the U.S. justice system concerning the death penalty in The Confession.  I learned a lot about Israelite culture in Pearl in the Sand.  I'm still really, really, glad that I wasn't born in the 1300s (World Without End).  I've decided to get a bottle tree in my backyard after reading On Folly Beach.  And, I sympathized and related to the mother in Her Mother's Hope and want to make sure my daughter feels my love each day because of the relationship presented in that great story.

6.  What was your favorite thing about the challenge?
No pressure!  It's just for people who enjoy to read at the pace they want to read.  I also enjoyed the weekly questions Katrina emailed to the participants.  How different people are!  I'm looking forward to the Spring challenge.  I guess I'll be catching up on my grad school reading until then.  Blah!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

100 Word Review: Pearl in the Sand

I had never heard of Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar until my BFF,, recommended it to me because loves me and wants me to be happy (and knows what purchases I've made over the past fifteen years).  I added it to my ever growing wish list and forgot all about it.  But, it just wouldn't seem to go away.  I kept seeing it on people's "must read" lists and decided to bump it up to the top of my own list.  I'm really glad I did.  I thoroughly enjoyed this account of Rahab (yes, that Rahab).  The story of Joshua and the walls of Jericho is one of my favorite Bible stories.  It's always seemed odd to me that Rahab chose to save the Israelite spies.  This historic Biblical work of fiction made this story really come alive.  You should add it to your "must read" list soon.  Here's my 100 word review.

100 Word Review:  Pearl in the Sand

 A future believed lost to save her family.
A Canaanite harlot...disgraced and full of shame.

Impenetrable Jericho walls and an inpenetrable human heart.  Neither can keep out the one true God.

Two spies...
stalks of flax on a rooftop...
a lie...
a promise...
a scarlet cord...
an entire family saved...

Falling in love...impossible?
Being worthy of love and can that be?

A beautiful story of the span of God's love and forgiveness and how He can use anyone from anywhere to fulfill His plans. 
Maybe this fictional interpretation is Rahab's real story.
I hope so.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

100 Word Review: The Confession

It's been a long time since I've read a John Grisham novel.  I used to read them as soon as they hit the shelves, but I guess I just got out of my Grisham phase somewhere around the time I had my first child.  I preordered this book on my Kindle about a month before it came out.  Honestly, it was just fun to preorder a book and know that it "arrived" at midnight on the day of its release.  It took me a while to read because of grad school papers, full time job stuff, and, oh yeah, parenting.  But, I'm glad I read The Confession.  It's classic Grisham with a bit of a twist.  Fair warning:  if you are a death penalty proponent, you'll be challenged.  If, like me, you struggle with the death penalty, your reasons for opposing it will be strengthened.  Sadly, I think The Confession is more fact than fiction.  It's a good legal thriller.  See what you think.  Here's my 100 word review.

100 Word Review:  The Confession by John Grisham

Innocent but "proven" guilty in a court of law.
A forced confession...
A life ruined...
A family torn apart...

A lawyer determined to stop his client's execution.
A preacher forced to break the law to try to save a life.
The real killer decides to tell the truth, but is it too late?


A close-up look at the U.S. justice system through the eyes of an innocent man.
How do you defend yourself against a lie?
Is anyone innocent until proven guilty?

Not Grisham's best, but a very readable, emotional, challenging, story.